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[Chalice] What Jesus Tried To Save Us From [Chalice]

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Presented Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007, by Rev. Dr. Rob Manning

It seems a simple question: what did Jesus try to save us from? Given two things:

Jesus is savior in some sense -- and we don't buy the whole original sin, rescue us from the Father's revenge, the need for the redeeming blood -- all distasteful at least.

I decided to read the four gospels in their probable chronological order and ask this simple question: What did Jesus in his own teachings try to save us from?

If we start with the earliest gospel, Mark, we get our first answer, the one that is most prominent and overwhelming in Mark:

1. Jesus came to save us from our sorrow, our grief, our loss.

Mark's Jesus is a constant miracle worker who only occasionally gets to say more than a few words He heals deaf people, blind people, people with evil spirits, lepers, brings dead people back to life sometimes he doesn't even know he is healing people as people are healed just by touching him.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus wants to give speeches but people keep asking for healing and his compassion for them means he keeps interrupting his own speeches. When you read the Gospel of Mark, you can imagine Jesus wanting to say: "Look, I know everyone wants to be healed, but I do have some important things to say."

Now I know this earliest Gospel picture of Jesus as miracle worker may bring out our incredulous side. Why should we trust these ancient accounts of healing miracles especially when we have experience of imposters, people who pretend to heal people. Maybe you saw the recent PBS program about Aimee Simple McPherson, that evangelist and faith healer, and maybe you heard the next day the interview of the man who said his father told him how much he was paid by the evangelist to pretend to be healed by Sister Aimee.

Jesus in the gospels responds to people's incredulity by saying: "With God all things are possible" and he makes a good point. I don't know about you, but I haven't given up on the possibility of God. I had a good conversation with Maureen Hallas and she hasn't given up on the possibility of God, either. There may be a God, and if there is a God all things become possible. God opens the category of the possible. Suppose the existence of God and all things do become possible, even the end of loss, and pain, and grief. Only a God can somehow wipe away the sorrow and the grief of human existence and make this that we feel so painfully somehow nonexistent, the loss and grief we feel with this terrible thing happening to Maureen or the loss that day ten years ago at the Master's when our good friend Bill Holiday died so suddenly. We do know that Jesus saw similar loss and grief around him all the time and he wanted to save us from these experiences.

2. Jesus came to save us from our worst selves.

Jesus is an ethical teacher who preaches personal righteousness and goodness He warns us about greed, self centered behaviour, licentiousness, drunkenness, lying, caring only about material things The Jesus of the Gospel of John says "I am the light of the world" but the Jesus of the earlier gospels talk about our inner light, what guides us to be good people or bad ones, and he says:

"Be careful, lest the light in you be darkness." Luke 11

"We unite in the free quest of the high values in religion and in life"

What do we mean by high values?

Certainly a lot of those high values would be ethical in character. Without sounding Victorian or pollyanish, we want to build in our kids a love for high values, good character we want them to care for their inner light we certainly want to instill in them a love for high values and not just a love for their accomplishments.

We started the building of our new addition partly so we can have better facilities for R.E. because we believe in building our kids minds and character, to teach them to honor high values in religion and in life. You cannot pursue those highest values in life if you think the highest values in life are material goods, wealth.

3. Jesus came to save us from self righteousness, thinking of ourselves as so much better than other people - judging ourselves too lightly and judging others severely.

"He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone." Appears only in the gospel of John, but not judging, being merciful and generous in your dealings with others is a constant refrain of Jesus in all the gospels.

"You can see the splinter in your neighbor's eye but cannot see the log in your own." Luke 18:9

There is a human tendency to let ourselves off the hook while we come down with judgment upon others. We say to ourselves, well I didn't handle things too well here but it was because of this we judge ourselves from a deeper understanding of ourselves, our feelings, our motivations.

Jesus is a master teacher of this; he loves to tell stories where even a person who has been treated kindly by another then goes and is cruel and judging to another person. Try to understand others from the inside the way we do ourselves give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Love is the spirit of this church.

It would be terrible if what we passed on to our Unitarian children is a sense of their superiority over other people, that they should look down their noses at other people and all those other, more traditional churches.

4. Jesus came to save us from living in a corrupt and unjust world.

From the very beginning, Jesus says he comes to preach good news to the poor. He is constantly critical of a society where some have a lot, too much, and care too much about the too much they have, while others do not have enough.

The poor he has filled with good things, while the rich he has sent empty away. In all 4 gospels people ask him what they had to do to be a sincere follower of Jesus and his answer is always the same: give away all your riches to the poor. He is constantly telling parables about people who are storing things up, caring too much about earthly possessions, and not caring about their fellow human beings in need. Rich people tend to really care about their riches, he says several times, so it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter heaven, and when was the last time you saw a camel pass through the eye of a needle?

If you read the gospels it is almost impossible to believe that Jesus would be happy with the way the world is now, with more than half of the world's people living on less than two dollars a day while some of the world keeps building bigger barns and houses to keep all our stuff. If he came back he would probably say to many of us: today your soul is required of you. I think he would definitely look at the world the way it is right now, with persistent hunger, starvation, preventable diseases while others of us have so much and say: this is the kind of world I was trying to save you from!!!

5. Jesus tried to save us from the clutches of leaders who care about themselves, power and who love ruling and not serving. Jesus tried to save us from ego--driven, self centered leadership.

Several times in the gospels disciples approach Jesus out of their ambition, wishing to be the top guy and have power and he always says the same thing. This self--centered leadership that thirst for power and control is all over the world, so let's do something different. We need a different kind of leader, one who is humble, not ego driven at all and really wants to serve others and do things for others, for the benefit of others.

Have we really had national leaders who have served the people of this country and really done something for us? What major advances in our lives have our leaders brought us?

We build on to the church so we can better serve the community. The rich get richer and life gets more difficult for most people, high paying jobs with benefits leave the country. People still live without health insurance they run the risk all the time that a serious illness will ruin them financially. This next presidential election we really need to have someone who will do something to help the people and not just the special interests, upper classes, and corporations.

I don't know about Christian leadership and a Christian president; we might have had enough of that but we could use the type of leadership Jesus recommended, leaders who don't serve their own ego but serve others in genuine humility.

©2007 Rev. Dr. Rob Manning

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article:
Manning, Rev. Dr. Rob. 2007. What Jesus Tried To Save Us From, /talks/20070408.shtml (accessed July 4, 2020).

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